By the News Staff of Georgia Weekly Post.
▲ University of Maryland graduate and Chinese student Yang Shuping gave a commencement address that focused on free speech. Phot by Georgia Weekly Post.
A University of Maryland graduate from China faced backlash from nationalists after praising the U.S.’s much cleaner air, free speech and democracy during her commencement speech.
Yang Shuping, a psychology major who’s from Kunming province, came to the U.S. five years ago. She recalled during her speech how she “felt free” when inhaling and exhaling American air outside an airport. She added that she no longer had to wear a pollution mask in the U.S.
She also spoke about watching “Twilight: Los Angeles,” a play about the city's 1992 riots and how freely the topics of race and politics were discussed.
“I was shocked, I never thought such topics could be discussed openly,” she said. “I have always had a burning desire to tell these kinds of stories, but I was convinced that only authorities owned the narrative, only authorities could define the truth.”
Shuping went on to say: “Democracy and free speech should not be taken for granted. Democracy and freedom are the fresh air that is worth fighting for.”
After her speech, the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) at the University of Maryland made a video with the hashtag #ProudofChinaUMD accusing Shuping of making false statements.
"I understand that a lot of people are saying China is still improving and we need to open up and embrace all the suggestions from the outside world," a woman in the video said. "But I would be pissed off if anyone disgraced my country with deceptions."
The university defended Shuping’ decision to express her experiences of studying in the States.
“The University of Maryland, like all public universities, is a marketplace of ideas,” the school said in a statement. “It is a place founded on academic freedom, the freedom of expression, and the right of every individual to share their thoughts and views in a welcoming and nurturing academic environment,”
Shuping issued an apology on Weibo saying she loves her country.
“The speech was just to share my experiences overseas, and I had no intentions of belittling my country and hometown,” she wrote. “I am deeply sorry and hope for forgiveness.”